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Alexander KordaRembrandt (1936)

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From IMDb: This character study joins the painter at the height of his fame in 1642, when his adored wife suddenly dies and his work takes a dark, sardonic turn that offends his patrons. By 1656, he is bankrupt but consoles himself with the company of pretty maid Hendrickje, whom he's unable to marry. Their relationship brings ostracism but also some measure of happiness. The final scenes find him in his last year, 1669, physically enfeebled but his spirit undimmed.

Stars: Charles Laughton, Gertrude Lawrence and Elsa Lanchester.


This movie is part of the collection: Feature Films

Director: Alexander Korda
Production Company: London Film Productions
Audio/Visual: Mono, Black & White
Language: English
Keywords: Biography; Drama; Painting

Creative Commons license: Public Domain


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Average Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars

Reviewer: Dark Moon - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - August 2, 2011
Subject: A pretty picture

...of European greed and money-consciousness (where do you suppose we got it from?). When it came to commerce and colonial exploitation, it is hard to say whether it was the British or the Dutch who were the worst of the lot (though Spain and Portugal were serious contenders for the title of colonial exploitation). Where better than England, then, to produce a film that portrays this aspect of Rembrandt's life?

Just as New Amsterdam became the center of commerce in the US (after it was re-branded as New York), old Amsterdam became the center of commerce in the Netherlands as the Dutch colonial power grew. This social setting is used in the film to powerful effect, by contrasting it against the needs and mindset of a creative artist, who must survive in a commercial world while keeping faith with the need for expression that drives his art. It is this picture exactly that families have in mind when they despair over their children who hear the call of artistic expression rather than that of a more gainful occupation. I had one art teacher who focused on skills useful to graphic and commercial artists, so that her students might have some hope of employment. And in the film, Rembrandt does his best to discourage his son from taking up the brush and palette.

Rembrandt is portrayed as a man with a passionate love, respect, regard, and admiration of women. A more beautiful soliloquy than the one that Charles Laughton delivers in his inimitable style can scarcely be heard anywhere. We then see him deteriorate visibly when death takes the love of his life, and the loss and grief blasts his mind. When he dares to risk love a second time, it happens again, and he is all but destroyed. Such is the condition of malekind, who cannot get his needs met among his own the way that women can among theirs, and must "put all his eggs in one basket," only to see them, more often than not, smashed all at once.

Charles Laughton, who so ably portrayed over-bloated aristocrats, tyrants, and villains, renders a painfully realistic performance of this tragedy that is difficult to watch, and left me feeling sad and depressed. A film of any lesser quality would not have nearly so much impact. Five stars for the quality, not the enjoyment.

Reviewer: ChefAlisia - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - September 9, 2007
Subject: Info on a great movie
Released in 1936, and directed by Alexander Korda, Rembrandt was originally intended as the first of a series of biographies of great painters (no further such films appeared). It was the first film to be shot entirely at London Films' huge new studios at Denham in Buckinghamshire.

Rembrandt was arguably Korda's best film as director, and he was personally upset when it flopped at the box-office, perhaps because it was too 'highbrow' for audiences' tastes. With more depth than his other efforts, it stands up well in the small genre of artist biopics like Vincente Minnelli's Van Gogh study Lust for Life (US, 1956).

More biographically detailed (thanks in part to the thorough research of Charles Laughton, who played the painter) than some of Korda's other historical films, such as The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) or That Hamilton Woman (1941), the film plots an archetypal story of the frustrated artist, misunderstood and finally destitute.

But the cliché is at least true of Rembrandt's life, and it is delivered with wit and sensitivity. The film also takes care to recreate seventeenth-century Amsterdam, with Vincent Korda's design and Georges Périnal's cinematography convincingly replicating the look of the Flemish painting of the period.